The Jumble: US Depth, Owen Hargreaves & Turkey Headed To A Pitch Near You?

USA v. HON: This moment always gets me...right...here...

• Here’s an interesting stat to start us off.

9 of 11 starters.

That’s right…depending on what your starting line-up is for the USMNT in 2010, it’s possible that the squad that strides out with kids in hand on June 12 will feature nine players (Howard, Spector, Gooch, Stu, Rico, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore) that played in one of the top 4 leagues in Europe in 2010.

The stragglers? Jay DeMerit who plays for Watford (once a Premiership team and DeMerit is arguably still a Premiership player) and…wait for it….Carlos Bocanegra (the column is coming folks). I’m counting the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and the EPL ahead of Ligue One.

Proof that Convey played in the Land of Fish & Chips...

Compare that to 2006 –using the Italy game as the marker– and you’ve got how many? Six. (Keller, Cherundolo,  Bocanegra, Reyna, Convey, McBride)…add DaMarcus and Eddie Lewis and you can make it seven if you want as both started at least a game.

So when I hear questions of “depth” around the USMNT especially coming out of this week’s USA friendly, I kind of scoff at them given that depth is a progression for the USMNT, not an absolute. Sure the USMNT needs more depth, but you need to compare that to years past when making the statement. And let’s not forget the injury toll on the depth, and let’s not forget that the MLS is a arguably better league than it was before, and let’s not forget that the Honduras team–true missing most starters–had some major talent and is World Cup bound.

It’s a positive trend for the States…still not where it needs to be, but positive.

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• Had this question from George in Tuesday’s comment section:

“Matthew, how do you honestly rate the US’s chances in the World Cup?
vs England
vs Slovenia
vs Algeria

And are you happy that the US plays England first?”

Great questions George and tough ones to answer now or even when the roster is selected in May.

First, let me caveat my answer by saying–to date–I have only witnessed Slovenia in highlights and never a full game. I’ve reviewed Slovenian players and data, but not how they play. That said…

The Goliath (Koller, 1st guy) and David (Rosicky 3rd) whupped the USMNT in '06 -- more on the Czechs in a minute...

You have to like the USMNT’s chances more than you did in 2006 from a group perspective as well as team perspective. Just about everything is different from the 2006 prep where Bruce Arena, in a strategy that can be questioned, relied on out-of-shape veterans and a series of extremely friendly Friendlies as preparation for Italy’s Iron Curtain and Czech’s inside-outside game of Koller and Rosicky.

First, I’ll take your last question. Getting England first instead of later is a positive. Expectations will not be sky high, pressure to win with two games ahead will not be as high and a loss to a first-rate England squad will not be looked at as the end of the Cup run for the States.

If England throws a rookie Cup keeper out there, all the better.

On your first question:

Right now, January 2010, if you had to press me into odds and outcomes on the games they’d look as follows:

Let's just say that Rooney is playing like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl...or Roenick in NHL '94...or you get the picture....

England (-.5) v. United States: I can see this game going any which way, but if Wayne Rooney continues on his 2010 rampage, lock up your children. Could be anything here as I think Capello’s work is covering up some major weaknesses especially in the defensive third for England. So I could see a States loss 3-1, a draw (1-1) or a Yanks win (don’t know the score).

Slovenia (even) v. United States: Slovenia is a team that shut-out Russia in the game to go this year and was the only team to topple Italy in 2006. A tricky game here for the USMNT if Slovenia gets up early. I’m looking at a draw here, but it would not surprise me if Slovenia clipped the US 1-0.

Algeria (+1.5) v. United States: Algeria is vulnerable and this is a game the States should win. I’ve watched Algeria a few times and if the US can press them in their defensive third, they’ll knock in at least one through the air. This is a Jozy Altidore game, if the youngster can bring it. US 1-0.

(Note, I’m not a gambler…never gambled on a game in my sports life, unless I was playing in it.)

By the way, I’m going to completely revise this after I watch the Netherlands Friendly in March. That will be the States first true measuring stick the Azteca on August 12th and the Confederation Cup.

Beyond the Group Stage, I’ve got a tough time visualizing Coach Bradley’s troops progressing, but it will all depend upon the form of the opponent. One team that, if hitting on all cylinders, will be an immense challenge is Serbia.

—–

Freddie Ljundberg hears no strike, the NewYork Red Bulls have paid to and sent their team to Spain, it’s a TSG we-are-pretty-sure-we-told-you-so-moment.

—–

• Here’s your link to the video from yesterday on Lanverton. (I was commenting to Miss Shin Guardian yesterday on how US Weekly needs to come up with names like TomCat and Brangelina….well let’s give it a try over here.)

Landon Donovan’s goal to this Everton fan proved one thing yesterday. If Tim Cahill has actually sprinkled a little fountain of youth on himself and Fellaini has gone Tom Hank’s Big….well Everton are going to be a force through the end of the campaign. In the beginning of the year you had the stick-like Fellaini battling back from a nasty virus that saw him down some 20-odd pounds and you had Cahill playing like he was thinking about sunsetting his career at Perth Glory or something.

Finding the fountain of youth...

While Donovan has been a force, he’s been complementary to the assured midfield play of these two and should be sending them some Isotoners Dan Marino-style or something.

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• Arsenal wunderkid Jack Wilshere is still rumored headed to Bolton. Next up on Spike: Ultimate Fighter, Horwich. Lee, perhaps Wilshere, Weiss and Holden. Keep your head down Stu. (Oh and Bolton, time to get a new logo…going to be tough for Holden fans to switch from the dazzling Dynamo jerseys to Bolton ones.)

—–

• The TSG Information Matrix (TM) goes far and wide. How far you ask? Is the USMNT thinking of bringing over the Turks and Czechs to the United States for a little tourney before the World Cup? This rumor–and just a rumor–abounds–pending our translation–from a Czech magazine. TSG Information Matrix…we might have to make that a subscription-based product. Wink.

—–

• Another good questions from TSG commentor George….What about Owen Hargreaves?

(Note to Man U fans…no mention here of return for Hargreaves…not sure where that came from. We are predominantly a States’ based commentary site.)

Sort of like the Three Lions' version of Johnny O'Brien

First of all, he’s Canadian..ha. All joking aside, Hargreaves in the England side would be absolutely ginormous. Its no question that beyond maybe Aaron Lennon, Hargreaves ability to jackrabbit all over the pitch in 2006 was the reason that England despite an offense that was offensive remained competitive.

That being said, you’re talking about what…a 2-year-layoff for Hargreaves. That’s really tough to come back from in terms of timing.

US fans know all about this situation unfortunately. There was a guy by the name of John O’Brien who dazzled in 2002 only to succumb to the medic table in 2006….in pops Pablo Mastroeni (not a slouch mind you), but a limited player with a penchant for fouling…out he goes in the Italy game and so-on and so-on and so-on….

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• And a closing note to ponder on last Saturday’s game. For all those slinging muck at Sacha Kljestan and even TSG boy Benny Feilhaber….ask yourself this? “Is it a coincidence that Alejandro Bedoya and Brad Davis shined when the USMNT went 4-3-2 in the 65th minute or so and opened up the midfield and played a more vertical, attacking game?” I’m just saying…..

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January 28th, 2010: Wayne Rooney

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53 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/28 at 8:58 AM

    I absolutely had no idea what that Czech translation was trying to say. Mini tourny before the cup? Is that a good idea?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 8:59 AM

      We have no idea either…we know the US is actively looking to schedule friendlies and it seems their is a proposed 3-team event….

      Reply

    • Not that I’ve seen any of Algeria or Slovenia lately, but would the Czechs and the Turks be a good warmup for our Cup opponents? Also, who would we line up to prepare for the Three Lions?

      Reply

    • Posted by brian on 2010/01/28 at 11:16 AM

      the (TM) never fails. i think the czech article is saying they are asking ussf if they can play friendlies with turkey and inter-state. I’d be really pleased playing those teams and perhaps egypt pre-WC. none of those teams are going to south africa. but they all are strong opponents that would provide a good test for our boys.

      Reply

  2. Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 9:10 AM

    Great write up Matt.

    A couple comments and questions.

    With CD9 looking like he is more and more likely to achieve the impossible, how do you think he will impact the game with England. It seems to me like giving them a dose of their own medicine (Dafoe) would be the best opportunity to squelch their enthusiasm to prove they are better than us once again.

    Also, I have to completely agree that the more open midfield of the 4-3-2 appeared to look exponentially better than the packed 4-4-2. Also, if I’m not mistaken, we were playing a flat 4-4-2 instead of my preferred 4-4-2 formation of a diamond 1-2-1 in the middle. Furthermore, IMO, Benny and Sacha don’t complienment each other at all. Benny is the type of player who gets himself space by moving off the ball and attacking from across the box. Sacha looks like he just wants to barrel his way through the defense and sometimes he gets lucky. Love the guys fire, but not sure if we should really be worried about trying to fit him into the system.

    Finally, i’m wondering if you would be able to lend some more insight as to why you think we will have an easier time with Algeria than Slovenia? Algeria has make it to the semifinal of the African Cup of Nations. That has to mean something right? I realize Slovenia has to make it through some extremely tough games (Russia being the biggest), but going on a run in the ACON is no easy feat. Also, beating the Ivory Coast stands for itself.

    Again these are just my opinions, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

    Cheers, GO USA!

    Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 9:37 AM

    @KL

    Thanks for the comments.

    As for Algeria, I’m not discounting the two late goals they dumped in against Ivory Coast for the win…but I also think the Ivory Coast isn’t completely sorted as a squad. They drew Burkina Faso….if you watched that game Ivory Coast gave it away in my opinion more than Algeria winning it.

    Algeria has a weak defense in my opinion and the US deals well for the most part with pressure up the pitch.

    Of course, more review once I watch more Algeria games.

    Agreed on the 4-4-2 comment, which as I mentioned in a previous post was made that much worse being flat with drawing the outsides in on a narrow pitch.

    Honduras had two defenses in the game: 1) Pressure the ball in the offensive zone and then sit back and concede the central midfield when the US had gained uncompromised possession. As they sat back in the first half the US passing had no depth to it, not movement on it.

    In the 2nd half, the US played the intermediary ball more (through necessity) or played up and over to Casey which opened the field as the US got down the field faster.

    The impact of the formation on Saturday’s game cannot be overstated enough.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 9:39 AM

      I’m going to be challenged to watch the Algeria game today, but I would love some feedback here.

      Reply

      • Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/28 at 12:56 PM

        I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but Egypt has been having there way so far. Algeria does not seem to have much offensive prowess on the ball.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 1:10 PM

          Dylan.

          You can be our eyes on tsg.

          Three questions interest me for this game.

          1. Is algeria possessing the ball? Is it and up down game?
          2. How is egypt attacking? Moving the ball methodically up the pitch? Are they possessing it in algeria’s defensive third?
          3. Is egypt launching jump balls into the box? Egypt did this to their benefit the last two times the teams played.

          Reply

        • Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/28 at 1:27 PM

          I’m gonna have to head to class here in a minute so I’ll miss the second half but I’ll answer the questions for the first.

          1. Algeria does not have much possession in the game, some countering but over all alot of bad first touches. A couple opportunites from free kicks, but nothing very threatening, they look like they lack speed. And not a very big team either.

          2. Egypt seems to be able to hold the ball very well, they have taken there time and gotten alot of players up into the attack without leaving themselves vulnurable. Egypys attack has been a mixture of run and gun and methodical movement, Algeria seems over matched.

          3. They have defintatley dumped a couple into the box but seem more inclined to look for shots, some great opportunites created by putting the ball into the corner. The strikers seem to be flying by the Algerian defense.

          Algeria has had a player sent off and egypt scored on the ensuing penalty so I would imagine much of the same in the second half.

          Reply

        • Posted by Matt B on 2010/01/28 at 2:09 PM

          Based on what I’ve seen in this match, our game against Algeria has to be the bettors’ favorite for most cards. In addition to having a defender sent off for 2 yellows, Algeria’s goal should have been red carded for making contact with the referee while arguing the penalty decision. Granted, this is a heated rivalry game, but Algeria does not seem very composed. After going down 2-0, they subbed on a defender for an attacking player, apparently limiting the damage rather than trying to come back.

          Reply

        • Posted by Matt B on 2010/01/28 at 2:18 PM

          My feed went down for a few minutes, in which I apparently missed another Egypt goal and Algeria red card. Moments after my feed returned, Algeria’s goalie was given a second yellow for a kick at an Egyptian after the whistle. When he got the red card, the British announcers commented that it was well past due.

          Reply

  4. No, it’s not a coincidence at all. The result doesn’t really matter, but the fact is Bob took his time making a change due to the red card because he wanted to give the players he started at least 45 minutes. If he was worried about the result or cohesive team play, he should’ve substituted a midfielder or forward for a defender far sooner.

    Of Rogers, Kljestan, Beckerman, Feilhaber, only Rogers is truly an outside midfielder and he ended up playing deeper pretty much as a wingback after Conrad’s sending off. That means Kljestan, Beckerman and Feilhaber needed to boss the midfield despite being outnumbered to bring us into the match which they utterly failed to do. That can sometimes happen, but obviously, this group didn’t manage it.

    Bedoya and Davis are more proper wing players so the style becomes more counter attacking, expansive and direct which is what you need when down a man. They also had a target-man forward to play to in Casey. We came more into the play because we were more threatening playing more directly down the wings than we were trying to play more centrally while down a man in the first half.

    You’ll notice my lack of enthusiasm for the two players, since I’m far from convinced that Bedoya and Davis are real options this cycle. We played a bit better simply because the tactics were more coherent and better suited to the situation we were facing.

    Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 10:19 AM

    Tuesday — we agree a lot — disagree here.

    Bradley knows what he has with that midfield already and he’s always hooks up experienced players first. The reality is for the first 17 minutes before the red card it was the wrong strategy.

    My point is I’m not sure what you learn by playing a strategy that is not conducive to the players at your disposal and the defense of the opposition….further the US style in South Africa is going to be more on the wing…so I’m not sure what loading up on central midfielders and forcing the ball through the middle gets you.

    I concur that Davis and Bedoya are not real options in this cycle….with the exception of the “x” factor roster inclusion. It’s no secret that the USMNT needs speed and attacking ability…if you are going to take a flyer on a player they would have that pedigree.

    Having said that, you’re more likely to get Torres or Beasley in that role than Bedoya or Davis.

    Reply

    • Do we disagree? Maybe I missed the point of your final paragraph, but I think we’re in complete agreement and my previous posts on the game reflect that. I would rather have seen a starting midfield of Davis, McCarty, Feilhaber and Rogers as well rather than yet another look at Kljestan and Beckerman who is way back in the logjam of CMs. Those young players would’ve probably played in a style far more similar to the one we typically see when our first 11 is available, telling us a lot more about how they and others might fare in our setup. They might have actually used the talents of Findley and Cunningham effectively. Isn’t experimentation the entire point of these meaningless friendlies? Someone forgot to give Bob that memo.

      Above, I was merely taking Bob to the woodshed for the mistakes he made during the game, not the ones he made before it. Even in a meaningless friendly, It’s just silly to wait 30 minutes to make a change after one of your CBs get’s sent off. If he wanted a good look at both Cunningham and Findley fine, why not take off one of the midfielders and go 4-3-2? His non-reaction is basically inexcusable.

      In the past we’ve discussed the differences between our successful counterattacking 4-2-2-2 setup and a more solid, traditional 4-4-2 setup. I think Bob is looking to have the second option available at WC. I think the more traditional 4-4-2 tends to kill the dynamism in our attack since we don’t have the either the fluid movement and intricate passing or the raw power to threaten in either of the typical styles of play based on this formation.

      His apparent desire to forge a more solid 4-4-2 makes me worry that he still doesn’t actually understand the strengths of our team and the 2 games in the Gold Cup was something he simply happened upon and failed to write down the recipe. He doesn’t seem to understand we’re not Italy, who can rely on a moment of individual brilliance or forward power to score and great team defending to win games 1-0 regularly. We need to focus on the expansive style of play that uses our strengths – pressure, effort, speed & athleticism – to create goals and accept that we will sometimes concede them as well.

      As for the possibility of going down a man at the WC, I think playing a 4-3-2 by eliminating one CM (in the past they have “eliminated” themselves) is probably our best option. We will be short some defensive cover but our attacking generally our attacking doesn’t flow through the center of midfield.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/28 at 11:40 AM

        I misread your initial comments and defended by opinion versus….No one!

        The fact that you and I agree Tuesday proves to me that I’m not an idiot….ha….

        Well said, so I’m copying it:

        His apparent desire to forge a more solid 4-4-2 makes me worry that he still doesn’t actually understand the strengths of our team and the 2 games in the Gold Cup was something he simply happened upon and failed to write down the recipe. He doesn’t seem to understand we’re not Italy, who can rely on a moment of individual brilliance or forward power to score and great team defending to win games 1-0 regularly. We need to focus on the expansive style of play that uses our strengths – pressure, effort, speed & athleticism – to create goals and accept that we will sometimes concede them as well.

        Reply

      • Posted by Siege on 2010/01/29 at 1:37 PM

        I have to agree with your study of BobO, tuesday…

        It seems to me that back when the US played against Brazil in the Confed finals he was extremely reluctant, to a fault, to substitute or adapt his game plan. I think coaches worldwide with the potential to play the US this WC are going to specifically target Coach Bradley’s inability to accept a strategy gone bad and to make immediate changes. It’s almost like Bradley can’t bear to think that his scheme could be coming apart before his eyes. Instead of making the necessary changes at the appropriate time (that all who are viewing seek for), he instead waits to see if his players will regain their focus and magically take control of the game again. I don’t get it.

        Bob has the ability to develop a team and strategically develop a game plan for a specific opponent but, he hasn’t shown me recently the ability to make effective changes on the fly that lead to saving a game.

        I hope to see the US put in that position again, where the game appears to be slipping through their grasp and Coach actually DOES SOMETHING about it. Preferably before June 12th.

        Reply

  6. Posted by Bob on 2010/01/28 at 10:46 AM

    As far as playing a team similar to the Three Lions, what about Ireland? It could be played in Boston or NYC and provide a big crowd and lots of American interest as opposed to the Hondoras game. I know Ireland may be down now, but it would be a good strong game as Ireland could view this as their World Cup game and would play a very intense 90 minutes.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Bob on 2010/01/28 at 11:08 AM

    Wow! This is really a GREAT site. I had no idea that you had already broke down the Irish National team. Great piece btw.

    That said, it would only make sense to schedule a mid-May friendly with the Irish National team in NYC – the new Red Bulls stadium maybe? Every player for the Irish plays in the EPL or a second tier English team – awesome I had no idea. If we scheduled it around May 12, it would be a perfect time to play a team very similar to Three Lions one month before the WC opener.

    How much influence do you guys have on USSF? Maybe a phone call would do it. ;-)

    Reply

  8. Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 11:53 AM

    Great dialogue guys! It’s great to see real soccer fans discussing real tactics objectively.
    Thanks for your input Matt. Unfortunately, I was forced to simply look up scores and stats for comparing Algeria to its opponents, so no I was not able to see the game. However, I hope to catch a few minutes of it today. Get back later with some observations.

    Reply

  9. Posted by bw on 2010/01/28 at 12:22 PM

    Everdon > Lanverton? And yeah, the bolton logo..seriously? It looks like two ‘wandering’ sperm going after an egg.

    Reply

  10. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 1:26 PM

    Thanks for answering my questions! I am very worried about our over reliance on Rooney, and without him, I think England are a QF team at the very best. He was on fire during the WCQ and his form for United this season is unbelievable – and I think United rely on him too much as well, so I am worried a little about burn out. You touched upon our defence, and I have to say that while we do have Cole, Terry and Ferdinand, I feel that our inability to hold concentration for 90 minutes and keep a clean sheet angers me. But I think their distribution from the back could improve. I saw your post about Johnson and his propensity to go walk-about, but I think he will be drilled by Capello to make sure he busts his gut to get back in position – if Dempsey is playing there it will help as he’s not exactly a speed merchant. By I think the biggest achilles heel is between the sticks. I just think this summer is too soon for Hart. I have little confidence in James, Green or Robinson.

    People have pointed out that the US’s problem spot is left back, and I agree. But I have been watching Lennon at Tottenham this year with interest. A clever strategy that Lennon does is stretch the distance between the left-back and the left-CB by staying very wide on the chalk. If the LB goes to cover, then Corluka exploits that space behind. If the LB keeps his shape with the back four, Lennon does what he wants, and cuts in a lot, and has been exceptional this season. Now, how do you think the US will handle this with Bocanegro and Onyewu? Lennon’s crossing has improved but admitedly, he should perhaps chip in with more goals. Then there’s Walcott – hopefully his injuries are behind him and he can get some games under his belt. Ashley Cole is having a blinding season for Chelsea so far and long may that continue, and if Donovan is playing wide right, I don’t think he’ll get much change from Cole. His offensive threat is there for everybody to see.

    Hargreaves is a tricky one because he is always ‘two weeks away’. Hopefully he will be fit becasue he really is a quality holding player, rather than a midfielder playing in that position. With Milner playing well, and Downing and J. Cole coming back from injury nicely, our bench doesn’t look too bad either.

    A comment on Onyewu. He is injured and is likely to be back in March. Do you think he’ll get enough playing time at Milan to be match fit because from the handful of Milan games I have seen, Nesta and Silva are playing well and I am not sure Onyewu will dislodge them in the starting XI.

    I think Slovenia under Kek have done really well with the resource available. They are very workman-like, keep their shape very well and are very disciplined. Offensively, I think they lack the class to true hurt you. Like you said, to beat a highly-fancied Russia over 2 legs is a fantastic achievement, especially as Russia had golden Guus as coach…

    I agree with your point on physicality against Algeria. They’re on a good run in the ACN, but apart from a few games, I haven’t seen too much from them. Most people expect Algeria to finish the group last, but I’m not so sure. I feel that they shown enough technical ability to make me think that them beating Egypt and reaching the ACN SF after beating the much-fancied Ivory Coast is not a fluke.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 4:40 PM

      I also think that when the game is a little stretched, and players become inevitably tired due to the alitude, England have better impact subs to call on. This is where the game could be won.

      Reply

  11. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 4:42 PM

    I also think that when the game is a little stretched, and players become inevitably tired due to the alitude, England have better impact subs to call on (Defoe, J. Cole, Beckham, Crouch, Owen, Downing, Agbonglahor). This extra dimension is where the game could be won.

    Reply

  12. Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 4:47 PM

    Just got back from class. I had the opportunity to to watch the first half of the game and a few minutes of the second (my feed went down). Unfortunately, in the time the feed was lagging, every goal was scored. However, I was able to see the style and run of play, for the most part. These are some of the thoughts I was able to write down during the parts of the game I was able to see:

    Egypt is doing a much better job in the coordinated attack.
    Algeria is better over the top and on fast counter attacks (This note is about their attacking prowess, not their defending prowess).
    Egypt is strong on the wings but this might have to do with the fact that Algeria isn’t doing a great job at pressuring the wings early.
    Egypt goes very defensive very fast…they get back well.
    Egypt like to play in the corners so they can win the corners.

    But as stated above, Algeria simply looked awful defensively. Matt, you are completely right when you said that the USMNT would have no problem dismantling this type of defense (not exact words I’m paraphrasing).

    @GeorgeCross IMO Onyewu should be fine for WC 2010 simply because the level of training at AC Milan is so high. I’ve read on other sites where he states that he doesn’t expect to displace either of the starters, but believes training with them would get him back into game shape. I tend to agree. Going against the likes of Ronaldinho everyday in practice.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 5:29 PM

      KL – I understand Onyewu will be training with some really good players, but is that enough? Surely there is no substitute for real playing time and he needs to get some under his belt?
      If this was any of the England squad, I wouldn’t be too happy, and Capello probably wouldn’t pick him for the 23 man squad…

      Reply

      • Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 5:45 PM

        Yeah, but England has that luxury. Gooch is quite possibly our best defensive player. Also, in my previous post I failed to mention that he’s expecting to be back by the beginning of March. That gives him two full months (basically) to train with AC. After that, in May, the US will probably have at least one, and possible three friendlies before the World Cup starts. The argument could be made that it would be better for us if his first matches back were with the USMNT because then he wouldn’t have to switch systems. Granted, centerbacks don’t have to alter their play much, but it’s a possible argument.

        Reply

  13. Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 4:51 PM

    I know this isn’t the best place to put this, but check out this link…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jan/28/england-mexico-fabio-capello-world-cup

    What do you guys think of England using Mexico as our stand-in? Are we really that similar or is that the best England can get?

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 5:23 PM

      I saw this earlier, and I am a little confused too.

      Reply

    • Posted by Evan on 2010/01/28 at 6:06 PM

      I’m not sure what to make of this really. I think that Capello might not understand the soccer over here. Where USA could play a similar opponent to England by playing a team close in proximity such as Scotland or Ireland, perhaps Capello is assuming that USA and Mexico are similar because they are close to each other. While I wouldn’t put this past him or any other European manager for that matter, I think its more likely that England just wanted a strong opponent to warm up against and Mexico brings that even if they play nothing like the United States do.

      Reply

      • Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 7:34 PM

        I don’t know, maybe.

        I hope Capello is that nieve for our sake. However, we all know he is not so, perhaps you’re right.

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        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 7:42 PM

          Baldini was at ACN completing his dossier on all the African teams at the WC. Capello is known for his tactical acumen and he will leave no stone unturned. He has probably already got his info on the USA’s Euro-based players. If we lose then it will be down to the players having an off day / opponents playing better rather than his tactics being off.

          Reply

  14. Posted by Rich on 2010/01/28 at 6:53 PM

    GC – Rooney is great and he certainly could beat just about any team on his own, but against the US, I don’t think England will have to rely on him alone. The US will want to defend and counterattack…well, they should plan to do so. That means lots of England possession in the US half. Therefore, Gerrard and Lampard could make the goal scoring difference…assuming Gerrard gets healthy and starts playing well for England. Also, if the US defends deep and well (I am hoping), crosses and free kicks will become very important for England. Thus, Beckham will be a significant player for England in this game (even off the bench) although I don’t think he will be against faster, more possession orientated teams later in the tournament as he is just too slow.

    As for the England backline, Terry and Ferdinand are tall and head the ball well. Generally, such defenders when organized (as I expect them to be) present a problem for the US. This means the US will most probably have to rely on, have to look for a moment of brilliance from Donovan or Dempsey or whichever strikers are healthy and play. Knowing the players, the moment of brilliance is most likely to come from Dempsey, so US fans have to hope he gets healthy. The question I would have about the US versus the England back line is ‘Will the US be able to successfully counter on England?’ Terry is very good at shielding, using his hands and body, and fouling when all else is lost, but I am not sure about the others. Cole can be caught out as can Johnson. I guess the big question then becomes ‘how conservative will Capello be?’ If it is still tied at 65 mins, will he be less conservative? Who knows. I think he will be willing to take a tie in this game. Won’t want to, won’t expect to, but also won’t want to risk losing the first game and possibly be unable to secure the top spot in the group.

    I have nothing to say about the US left back situation. I believe the US left back will cost the team at least two goals. I have had many nightmares that the left back will be this World Cup’s Jeff Agoos.

    I think you have to assume that Hargreaves is out. Good player, but just not healthy. It really is too bad too. I liked watching him play, but as has been noted, he is Canadian!

    Last thing, I would assume with the altitude, fitness and late game energy favor the US. Maybe this is a very biased American attitude, but I generally assume US players are in better shape than their opposition. Since you can only sub three guys, depth becomes less of an issue. Also, England is going to sub on Beckham, which as I mentioned above is good for set pieces and crosses, but really doesn’t help England defend or realize a fitness advantage. I could be wrong here, but I would score this one for the US.

    Reply

    • Posted by KL on 2010/01/28 at 7:31 PM

      thoughtful discussion Rich. Just another reason why this is the best place to go for insightful, objective dialogue.

      Just one thought: I like to consider the X factor. I guess I define that as our energy in the first game. It’s quite possible that, if we can balance aggression with intelligence, England might find it more difficult to control the midfield as expected. Bradley, when he plays smart, can be a counter-attacking beast. Also, in the Confed Cup, Jozy and CD9 did a great job of defending up top. It’s going to take a group effort, but if we can play intelligently and with energy it’s going to be difficult to score on us.

      Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m finding it hard not to be with all the good news lately. I hope I didn’t completely discount the first statement of this post.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/28 at 8:09 PM

        Rich – I don’t particularly feel that the USA has any advantage in fitness – all of England’s players are top level pros and have access to top-of-the-line sports scientists, nutitritionist and biomechanics, just like all the top teams.

        You have said that you expect England the have the lion’s share of possession – well one could argue that you expend more energy trying to get the ball back rather than ball retention. And I also feel that we have more players who are comfortable on the ball, who want the ball, which is important for possession play. I think if England can play like they did in the first 30 minutes against Croatia, then they will win. That was football ballet! But it is highly unlikely, I can only wish…

        I honestly think that the longer the game stays at 0-0, the more inpatient England will get. I think that England will come out of the blocks really quickly to get that early goal so we can draw you out a little and then get behind your back four. Cole and Johnson will be crucial with their over-lapping runs. I think they will be important match ups as well as the obvious ones (plus it will keep your wide players in your half and not ours). Lampard is scoring for fun lately – right foot, left foot, headers, inside the box, outside the box, so you might be right, re. goal coming from a long shot.

        Beckham has never had pace, he’s a wide player rather than a winger. He doesn’t need to beat his man to whip the ball behind the back four but in front of the keeper. He won’t start, as Capello loves pace, so it will be Lennon or Walcott. I can see Beckham coming on in tandem with 6’7″ Crouch. Might not be pretty, but it is an option.

        I just hope Howard doesn’t have another game of his life (vs Spain SF).

        Reply

        • Posted by Rich on 2010/01/29 at 9:38 AM

          GC – To be clear, I wasn’t taking a shot at England’s fitness. Specifically, I wasn’t making a comment about the quality of athletes nor of the training. I believe that the England players are elite athletes and therefore to be anything but fit would out of the norm. Instead, I believe in the strength of US fitness. Couple of reasons for this: one, despite the obvious need for great players to mix skill, creativity, tactical awareness, and athleticism, I think US players are still chosen with a primary emphasis on athleticism. (I don’t just mean a national team level. I am talking about youth teams, ODP teams, and college teams. Thus, the guys who get trained up are pretty much only the most athletic of the bunch.) Thus, the reason–in my opinion–why players like Torres and Feilhaber are not at present in the first 11. Also, for US players to make it in Europe, they really need to be better than their counterparts in some facet of their game. I maintain, while they get better on the ball all the time, normally the facet of the game in which they shine is athleticism–strength, speed, size, explosiveness, and endurance. Anyway, that would be my argument.

          Your point about chasing the ball is valid and if the US go down a goal in the first half, I would expect the US players to be exhausted by the end. If it stays tied into the 65 min, I am not sure the US players will be exhausted despite England having the majority of possession. Here’s why: there is a big difference between chasing the ball and conceding some possession. I really don’t think the US will chase the ball until England is in the offensive third, which should conserve some energy. Anyway…

          I expect England to seek an early goal as well, but am hoping that search serves the US. Cole and Johnson can be terrors on the flanks, but I believe it is in the best interest of the US to let them come. The US is best on the counter and it is definitely easier to counter when speedy wing backs are out of the equation or at least out of position. I have been pretty deferential to this point, but I think England ignores the US ability to counter-attack at her peril.

          The US strategy I am advocating does require Howard to be pretty amazing. Thus, if you don’t mind, I am going to hope he has the game of his life.

          Final note: Beckham. I understand what you are saying and would say the same thing myself (although a Beckham set piece to Terry’s head scares me more than Crouch). Still, I have to look for the positive for the US and I believe the US can take advantage of Beckham’s lack of athleticism when he comes on.

          KL – Love the optimism. I agree with you that the team’s energy could be a great strength, but I also worry that it could lead to the kind of cards that have hurt the team in the past. I know you mentioned that they have to be smart, but I think it could require more than that. In major tournaments, I feel like the US players have a target on their backs and cards of both colors take direct aim. That worries me. I don’t want to be here in June whining about another bad red card.

          Reply

  15. Posted by MJ on 2010/01/28 at 11:46 PM

    Call me naive, but I feel like one of our prime assets is the DTOM mentality that, when properly applied, can dismantle any team. Granted any team in any sport benefits from heart, yes. Still. Call me a hopelessly patriotic romantic, but I feel like our boys benefit from a unique and genuinely –dare I say Texan?– game changing attitude. I want to say it comes from the unique blend of fighting not just for your country, but for the sport you love on behalf of that same country which for the most part ignores you. Throw into that the fact that the US is uncharacteristically the odd man out in this arena –much to our chagrin and the world’s enjoyment– and our perpetual underdog sense of respect only fires us up further.

    The flip side of the coin I feel is that we are a team that needs that fire to be stoked in order to perform in a competitive way (Ref. our recent game against Honduras) or else risk running a lukewarm match. Maybe I’m reading too much into our boys’ heads, but I have to imagine that same desire to come out and prove our international nay-sayers wrong cuts both ways if we go down early and all those negative thoughts start bubbling up with 70min to go still. That’s why I’d love to see us come out firing against England and get one in early to get the home fires going. If ever there was a match made for an old fashioned test of wills this would be it. I can’t imagine England taking us anymore seriously than for what the match represents in and of itself. Capello’s promise after the draw to “be respectful” felt like a backhanded compliment to begin with, not the kind thing you have to say if it’s actually true.

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/29 at 6:43 AM

      Let me first say that only a fool would not take the USA seriously. You have to be blind and stupid not to notice the progress that the USA has made in the last 20-odd years on the international stage, which can be evidenced by your consistent WC qualification. Look at your rise up the rankings – you’re at a point where the next step is getting into the second tier of teams (I think we can all agree for the most part that Span and Brazil are out there on their own, and then you have the likes of Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, Portugal and England?). The teams around you are Russia, Croatia, Australia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Australia. It’s only a matter of time until the “Old World” gets broken up. Any intelligent football fan will honestly say this. Don’t believe the crap you see in the English “Red Top” tabloids – you just have to think who reads them and you will have your answer.

      There was a mention of the amount of European based today compared with 4 years ago, and that this has increased. That is an interesting benchmark. But I feel the best way to progress in the long run in grass roots football. Look at Spain and Brazil – every player is comfortable on the ball, even the defenders. I apologise for the veering off the original subject!

      Yes, England are expected to win the game and group. I think any honest person will say the same. But we don’t expect you to roll over and not put up a fight. It will be an extremely tough pressurised situation, and a one-off match. The USA proved against Spain and almost Brazil that anything can happen.

      Of course Capello was ‘happy’ with the draw – it could have been a lot worse, think about it. We got the toughest CONECAF opponents (you, the USA), but lucked out with the European and African opponent – not being disrespectful to Slovenia or Algeria, but *everybody* wanted to avoid France / Portugal and Ivory Coast / Ghana. Then from your point of view, South Africa were the “seeded” team that everybody wanted, but you probably got the weakest of the “truly seeded” teams in England.

      I speak to my mates back home in England and they say that some sections of the media are talking about the SF already, but the reputable papers, are talking about caution.

      Also, if England do win Group C, we could possibly face Australia in the last 16. Another country that badly wants to put one over the old Mother-country (especially since we’ve beaten them in the last two RWC and the recent Ashes).

      Reply

  16. Posted by Jim from NC on 2010/01/29 at 5:33 AM

    Why is that the Mexican soccer federation can create a huge six game pre world cup schedule (Boliva, Iceland, Chile, Ecuador , New Zealand, and TBA) in the US plus a game against England in Europe and all we can come up so far with is a game in Mardh against Holland? I know we will get games but it seems as though we are always finalizing games after others. I guess we are slower to get things finalized but does that also mean we get second or third choices in scheduling?

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/29 at 6:57 AM

      I wouldn’t worry. There are not many FIFA sanctioned breaks in the (European) calendar, so player availability for the US would be an issue. You could argue what’s the point in having these preparation games if you don’t have your first team available? I know there is a long way to go, and injuries can happen, but Bradley *should* know his first XI and provisional 23-man squad.

      Reply

    • Yeah I initially thought that Mexico having 6 friendlies looked really bad against the USMNT, but after thinking some more on it I was OK.

      George brings up an important point that there are more Mex matches that Int’l dates. The USMNT by virtue of having more players abroad in Eurpe cannot call them all back. It points to a strength of the US side. Whereas Mexico, having more players in their domestic league has more flexibility for call ups, but not necessarily more skill.

      I think if you were to name a US starting 11 right now (based on having those injured back by their projected date) the US line up is pretty straight forward (the exception being right back… maybe the final mid-field set up). Mexico has more question marks… and the ultimately is what their extra dates are for. That and an exercise in money making on the backs of US-based Mexico fans (which is a whole other issue).

      Of course we want as many tune ups as possible, but its not the quantity but quality that counts. If the US mini-tourney goes forward (as reported on this site) then the US schedule looks a lot stronger than Mexico’s.

      Reply

  17. Posted by Bob on 2010/01/29 at 11:33 AM

    If Cooper catches fire in England, then we could add another overseas player to the WC roster. Who knows? How many MLS players actually have a legitimate shot at making the team? It is definitely a question that has not come up in years. I do not know if that is a good or bad thing, but it will hopefully improve our chances come June.

    Reply

  18. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/30 at 8:30 PM

    Yes, Hargreaves is Canadian. But I would argue that one of the most talented players to ever represent the USA was South African (his Mrs was a Yank!)…

    How you could use his creativity and invention in the final third now!

    The older football fans should know who I am talking about…

    Reply

  19. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/30 at 8:44 PM

    George — I’m stumped and I have to much pride to Google it.

    Ernie Stewart I thought was Dutch…but son of a serviceman.
    Hugo Perez: Salvadorian….

    Gosh…I’m hurting on this one…

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/31 at 7:09 AM

      A certain Roy Wegerle. The man had sublime skill. He would walk into the US team now, playing in the hole. We would be talking about ‘who would partner him?’ and ‘how to build the team around him?’ and ‘how to get the best out of him?’. Obviously, it’s just my opinion, but I think he was that good.

      He was a bit like Glenn Hoddle – in those days “flair” players weren’t appreciated (in England). They were a luxury. Apart from Liverpool, who were a good footballing side, it was long ball, with a little and large combination up front – one to win the initial header or flick, the other to feed off it. Football has evolved immensely and I wonder how much he would command in the transfer market today.

      I had the pleasure of watching him play quite a few times when he used to play for Chelsea, Luton* and QPR* in the late 80s / early 90s.

      *Not 100% sure how much the artificial pitch helped him outwit opponents…

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/31 at 7:21 AM

        Not sure how I missed that one as I remember asking my parent’s about getting his jersey….before I knew anything about soccer

        As I remember though…he was oft injured….

        Thanks George….just gave us an idea for another piece by the way….

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/31 at 7:29 AM

          I get excited talking about good players, (regardless of where they are from) and to this day cannot believe how under-rated he was.

          He was probably injured because he got proper lumps kicked out of him (pre compulsory shinpads and protection from referees). Nobody liked a flash git back then…

          USA best XI of all time?

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/31 at 7:41 AM

            Oh wow….I think we’ll have to run that piece “Best XI” of all-time after World Cup 2010. And we’ll have to come up with the criteria too…

            Plus we’ll need to rely on some older folks for players before the mid-80(s) I would imagine…but we’ll try.

            Wegerle is in there…Dooley…Friedel….Ricky Davis maybe….Preki….Hugo Perez….gong to have to research here….

            Do we quality players like Brede Hangeland (who I think will be good for a very long time) or a, gulp, Giuseppi Rossi?

            Reply

  20. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/01/31 at 8:01 AM

    Top of my head: McBride and Wegerle up top, Dempsey and Donovan wide MF, Reyna in the middle (perhaps Jones and Ramos), Dooley CB and Freidel in goal. Need to think about it more and the missing players.

    Matthew: do me a favour. If anybody dares put Lalas in their all time XI – please ban them from future postings!!

    Reply

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